This week’s lead review for Wednesday Comics is Monarch #1, a new mash-up of horror and science fiction that also includes compelling teen drama. In addition, the Wednesday Comics Team has its usual rundown of the new #1s, finales and other notable issues from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!
Writer: Rodney Barnes
Artist: Alex Lins
Color: Luis NCT
Color Assist: Mar Silvestre Galotto
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Art Director: Jason Shawn Alexander
Publisher: Image Comics
In Monarch #1, Rodney Barnes (Killedelphia, HBO’s Winning Time) and Alex Lins (New Mutants, Immortal Hulk) throw you right into the pivotal moment of the issue. Something has come and it is killing kids in the schoolyard. “This is just a game,” the caption narrates, “one of those virtual reality ones that mess your head up.” But it’s not a game.
Monarch follows Travon, who is a young teen in a foster home, as he wakes up and then makes his way to school. What is immediately grounding about this comic is that everything has a place and a purpose. After a flashy, and violent, introduction to the main event of the comic, it pulls back to the first moments of Travon’s day — he wakes up, listens to a talk show on his alarm clock as he stares out the window, and gets ready for another day. But something is wrong. Something colorful and weird, like a giant cloud, has settled itself over the L.A. skyline. The spectacle of some of these full page illustrations reel you in, they feel huge, and in this moment — looking out of his window, seeing the neighborhood see this giant cloud-thing — you feel what Travon feels. With colors by Luis NCT, who was assisted by Mar Silverstre Galotto, the comic balances pitch black shadows and a pastel kind of hue when you start to look at the outside world, which gives it the feeling of being obscured by something.
Travon leaves his house, stopping for a moment to talk to an older man, Rashon, outside his front door about the lights in the sky. Rashon tips him off that the neighborhood bully, his bully, is waiting for him just down the street—and the chase is on! The sense of action and movement in each panel is so well conveyed by Alex Lins. It goes by quickly. You can get swept up in the rush Travon feels when he finally outruns his bullies and enters the fenced-in schoolyard. Dropouts like his bully, Zion, aren’t allowed in the schoolyard. The gate locks and for a few more hours he is safe at school. So he thinks.
Monarch #1 excels in its specifics. Largely focusing on a black community and set of characters, things like voice, culture, and struggles are forefront in the narrative. The place is there in the neighborhood and at school, and Travon’s youth comes through in his understanding of what’s happening. Travon’s a smart kid and the captions, at times, take on a mystical observation of the events in his life. As this is the first issue in an ongoing series, I wonder if this is foreshadowing to an older version of himself looking back. At the moment, it doesn’t matter, because the entire school day goes by in a few pages. The comic stops for a sweet moment on the roof, where Travon and a girl hold hands, looking up at the pink and blue sky, and are showered in pastel, opaque light. It’s a quiet moment. Travon says: “Happy to have you…” and she says: “You’ll always have me.”
But this quiet moment doesn’t last—they never do, do they?—and suddenly, in the school yard, despite being a dropout, Zion is back and he wants violence. Monarch #1 circles back to the beginning, breathing in personhood and breathing out violence, as it begins to retell the first few pages in a new context. This is (most likely) not virtual reality. If it is, something even weirder is happening. Zion is back, but also something beyond him is aware of them and, despite being the embodiment of violence, is more powerful than even Zion seems to be. By the end of Monarch #1 there are a lot of fascinating and terrifying questions. It’s clear who the heroes are, but it’s not clear if they’ll survive—or, at least, survive in their current bodies.
Throughout the comic the lettering and writing play delicately against the art. The words are sparse, but meaningful; the lettering often has colored backgrounds to denote voice and time periods; the sound effects, even when contained in the panels, feel big; and there are some really big images in this comic. It all works really well. I can’t wait for the next issue.
Wednesday Comics Reviews Quick Hits
- Harrower #1 (BOOM! Studios): This issue tackles the idea of who inspires and cultivates urban legends head-on. Written by Justin Jordan with art by Brahm Revel and letters by Pat Brosseau, Harrower #1 is a strong start to a new horror comic. The slasher genre has permeated horror for decades now. The idea of an eerie killer stalking high-school teens is far from new, but this creative team approaches it with a slightly off-kilter angle. There’s a sense of looming dread shrouded over the entire town, and the playful banter between friends that generates a laugh comes with an edge of suspense. Revel’s art fits the tone perfectly, it’s gritty and not afraid to venture into the grotesque when the story calls for it. There’s an obvious understanding of color contrast throughout the issue that works wonders for the atmosphere. This issue packs in a lot of great character work while setting up an intriguing mystery that feels unique in the slasher genre. –Alex Batts
- Space Job #1 (Dark Horse Comics): Space Job #1 puts dissatisfied space crew members front and center; people that hate their job and their station and want more or at least different. Writer David A. Goodman pulls a rewarding bait and switch in this first issue that sets the pace for the series to come, with comedic timing and dysfunction highlighted through the art of Alvaro Sarraseca, the colors of Jordi Escuin Llorach, and the letters of Mauro Mantella. While the story and color palettes contain themselves within the confines of a very gray ship, the characters and art (especially the vibrant purples, greens, and blues of space) seem to highlight that something more colorful awaits these characters beyond their current situation. –Khalid Johnson
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